Thousands of years hence, many races inhabit a universe where a mind's potential is determined by its location in space - from superintelligent entities in the Transcend, to the limited minds of the Unthinking Depths, where only simple creatures and technology can function. Nobody knows what strange force partitioned space into these 'zones of thought', but when the warring Straumli realm use an ancient Transcendent artefact as a weapon, they unwittingly unleash an awesome power that destroys thousands of worlds and enslaves all natural and artificial intelligence.
Fleeing the threat, a family of scientists, including two children, are taken captive by the Tines - an alien race with a harsh medieval culture - and used as pawns in a ruthless power struggle. A rescue party, not entirely composed of humans, must free the children - and retrieve a secret that may save the rest of interstellar civilization.
Vernor Vinge (1944 - ) Vernor Steffen Vinge was born in Wisconsin in 1944. He is a retired San Diego State University Professor of Mathematics, a computer scientist and science fiction author. He is best known for his two epic space operas A Fire Upon the Deep (1992) and A Deepness in the Sky (1999), both of which won the Hugo Award and were shortlisted for the Nebula. He is the winner of 5 Hugos, 4 Prometheus Awards and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, among many others. In addition to his works of science fiction, Vinge authored the influential 1993 essay 'The Coming Technological Singularity', in which he argued that the creation of superhuman artificial intelligence will mark the point at which 'the human era will be ended', such that no current models of reality are sufficient to predict beyond it.